2020, a year to be remembered
08 September 2020 | Sicily, Marina di Ragusa (position: 36 46.863'N 14 32.701'E)
Bruce & Caroline Trott
Flirtie at anchor in Gnejna Bay, Malta 20/08/2019 - Oh, how we dream to be at anchor!
What a year it's been! We can't believe that we are already in September with just a few months left of the year. It's only now that we find the motivation to update our blog, to record our year that in more ways than one has been put on hold - not all of our own making we may add.
Last September we returned back to the UK for Bruce's hernia operation and to catch up with family and friends. Knowing that we were due to return to the UK again in March for another PSA test we were keen to catch the first flight back to Sicily in early January to see Flirtie and crack on with all the maintenance work so as to be ready to leave in early April for a summer of cruising the foot of Italy up towards Venice and then Croatia - well, that was the plan before COVID rapidly became global news.
In March (a week before our scheduled return to the UK) our flights were cancelled and Italy went into complete lockdown. There were a few repatriation flights on offer but after considering the options we made the decision to stay here in Sicily and not take any risks with travelling but we needed to find a blood lab in order to get Bruce's PSA test/results. We spoke to our support nurse back in the UK to explain our situation and she was more than happy for us to find a lab and send the results back for the record. We found a lab in Santa Croce - the next town from MdR just a short cycle away which took away any anxiety of using public transport.
April came and went as we kept up-to-date with the local and worldwide news regarding Covid and Brexit and kept ourselves thoroughly entertained by watching some hilarious videos and photos on the web - thank you to all who took the time to post them. We also decided to upgrade Flirtie a little and added an additional port light (window) in our back cabin to allow more airflow, replace the original round galley sink with a double stainless steel sink, fit a new table in the cockpit and start the endless task of internal varnishing. All of these jobs have been on the wish list from the day we moved aboard Flirtie but for one reason or another never actually made it to the top.
By May, with so many restrictions on travel we made the decision to commit to yet another annual contract. There were so many unknowns and so many unanswered questions regarding sailing around Europe that we didn't want to find ourselves in the situation where we were not allowed to anchor and instead forced into an expensive marina and potentially having to quarantine. With more time on our hands we continued to research the impact of Brexit to our lifestyle and travelling around Europe. For us living on Flirtie for periods greater than 90 days in every 180 days it became clear that we shouldn't just sit around and hope for the best but instead we should apply for residency ready for when the UK finally leaves the EU on 31 December 2020 with or without a deal.
In the first week of June we applied for residency on the basis that if everything went to plan then by mid-July we'd have our residency and then we could spend a few months cruising as the ports started to accept foreign visitors - that was the plan anyway!
A visit to the local comune (Municipality Administration) here in Marina di Ragusa confirmed that we could indeed become Italian residents whilst living on Flirtie. For non-EU cruisers the process is well documented but for the UK's departure from the EU the requirements were at the time pretty sketchy. We lost count of the number of hours that we spent translating text and documents in order to try and understand the paperwork and documentation required. One of our American cruisers (thank you Tom) suggested that in his experience it was far better to take too much paperwork than too little and have everything translated and photocopied just in case. We headed his words and it paid dividends as we handed over forms duly filled in along with all the supporting documentation. We watched the clerk cross check everything and tried to gauge her expression to see if we'd been accurate (a little difficult given the mask) but her eyes and a confirming nod said to us that everything was in order. She then confirmed that we'd expect a phone call and that after residency acceptance we'd have to return to apply for ID cards... that was almost 3 months ago. We can only assume that there is a significant backlog because of Covid and the offices being shut at the time and now more recently an increase in new applications being made as the Brexit deadline approaches.
In August we had a bit of progress (hurray) in that we received a phone call to check that our contact telephone number was correct and they advised us that we were now being processed to the system. We are at least now in the system. We decided that a fortnightly visit wouldn't hurt to let them know that we're still here and waiting. It has to be said that the ladies in the office are lovely and particularly welcoming but the answer is always the same - aspetto! (Wait!). Don't leave your residence and on the latest visit, an additional gesture of... pray!!
So we continue to wait, hence the reason for the lack of blogs. It's looking doubtful if there will be any wild adventures for Flirtie this season as it stands but like many others this year our lives are on hold for one reason or another. Just stay safe everyone.